What is the difference between Data Theft and Identity Theft?
Data theft occurs when someone obtains key pieces of your personal identifying information. Identity theft occurs when that information is used for fraudulent or other unlawful purposes. The unlawful acquisition of personal identifying information does not necessarily mean that identity theft has occurred.
Who do I speak with at the credit bureau if I notice something unusual on my credit report?
When you receive a copy of your report, there will be a phone number listed on the report that you can use to contact someone in the bureau's fraud unit. If you see anything on any of your reports that looks unusual or that you don't understand, call the number on the report.
How long does a fraud alert last?
An initial fraud alert lasts 90 days. You can remove an alert by calling the credit bureaus at the phone number given on your credit report. If you want to reinstate the alert, you can do so. If you are the victim of identity theft, you can place an Extended Fraud Victim Alert on your report by submitting a copy of a valid identity theft report that you have filed with a federal, state or local law enforcement agency. An Extended Alert will remain on your report for seven years.
Will a fraud alert stop me from using my credit cards?
No. A fraud alert will not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other accounts. It may slow down your ability to get new credit. Its purpose is to help protect you against an identity thief trying to open credit accounts in your name. Credit issuers get a special message alerting them to the possibility of fraud. Creditors know that they should re-verify the identity of the person applying for credit.
Can I still apply for credit after I place a fraud alert on my credit report?
You should still be able to get credit. While a fraud alert may slow down the application process, you can prove your identity to a prospective creditor by providing identifying information.
If I suspect that my Social Security Number was misused, should I have it changed?
The Social Security Administration very rarely changes a person's SSN. And the mere possibility of fraudulent use of your SSN would probably not be viewed as a justification. There are drawbacks to changing to a new SSN. The absence of any history under the new SSN might make it difficult to get credit, continue college, rent an apartment, open a bank account, get health insurance, etc. In most cases, getting a new SSN would not be a good idea.
What else can I do to limit the chances that I become an identity theft victim?
As a general privacy protection measure, limit the use of your SSN when it is not required. For example, if your bank or other financial account number or PIN is your SSN, you should request the financial institution to give you a different number. Do NOT use the last four digits of your SSN, your mother's maiden name, or your birth date as a password for financial transactions.
Always review your credit card bills. If you spot purchases you did not authorize, contact the credit card issuer immediately.
Are there any other resources that can help me?
Yes. See additional resources here.
Credit Bureau Information